I wanted to attend Parliament and speak in the debate on the European Union Bill on the 30 December but unfortunately, I was not selected to be on the call list of speakers.
I thought it would be helpful to share the text of the speech I would have given, had I been able to participate in the debate. Due to time constraints given the number of MP’s who wanted to speak, the Speaker imposed a 3-4-minute time limit on our contributions.
I could not vote in support of the deal and as a result I tendered my resignation from the Labour front bench. I will continue to work with Keir and the Shadow Cabinet to hold this Government to account and to stand up for Vauxhall constituents from the back benches.
‘Thank you, Mr Speaker.
When I was elected as the new MP for Vauxhall, I promised my constituents that I would be their voice in Parliament.
We were the second highest area in the country to vote remain in the referendum on EU membership. I am, and always will be, a proud European and along with 78.6% of my constituents, I too voted to remain in the EU.
After four and a half years of tortuous negotiations, it’s clear to me that a no deal Brexit would have been disastrous for my constituents, and our country. And today that option is thankfully not on the table.
We are being asked to vote for a deal – but it’s a deal that prioritises sovereignty and independence over cooperation, inclusion and collaboration.
In my final undergraduate year at University, I was privileged to spend a semester studying in Utrecht as part of the Erasmus scheme. As the first in my family to attend university, I did not move out but instead I commuted from home. I was a carer for my late mother, and I was worried about moving away from home and leaving her. I didn’t experience the traditional university life associated with fresher’s week and living in student halls. As a working-class girl from a council estate in inner city London, my Erasmus experience was transformative. I still remember the feeling of excitement and nervousness when I landed at Schiphol Airport trying to navigate my four suitcases (yes, I had four suitcases Mr. Speaker) travelling on the Nederlandse Spoorwegen train to Utrecht. This scheme made me feel like I was part of a bigger world, and it allowed me to embrace new cultures and ideas.
The soft power of Erasmus cannot be bought and sold. It’s a human exchange – that sense of being part of a community whose values you share. And a community who believes that it’s better to work together than to go it alone. This will now be denied to my constituents, thousands of whom are EU nationals. They have chosen to make Vauxhall their home and raise their families here. But today they will be nervous about whether they have a future here when previously they have never had to question their status.
Mr. Speaker, the Brexit question was always a false choice – are you in or out? Are you with us or against us? It has created cleavages and disharmony where none previously existed.
And be under no illusion – this trade deal is not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning. And whatever the future holds, this Government must be solely responsible for the outcome.
I understand why my Party has decided to vote for this deal. We are a party for the whole nation, and I accept that the majority of people voted to leave the EU. But this is not a deal that will make the lives of Vauxhall residents better than they were under EU membership, nor is it a deal that will improve our ability to tackle the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
For me, this is a deeply personal issue. I will not vote against this deal when there is no feasible alternative on the table. But as the MP for Vauxhall, I cannot honestly vote for a deal that I don’t believe is in the best interests of my constituents. That is why I am abstaining in today’s vote.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.’